Snap Goes The Xbox

I was intrigued to read an update on the Snap feature of the Xbox One today. The feature was announced at the Xbox One’s fateful unveiling, but it was somewhat lost beneath the tidal wave of outrage at the console’s ‘always-on’ internet requirement and the fact that Microsoft might be spying on our bedrooms. Now, with the Xbox One launch weeks away, Microsoft are ‘bigging up’ the feature once again.

Snap lets you bring up a second app while playing a game, so by bellowing “XBOX, SNAP TV!”, you can command your console to split the screen and bring up a little telly on a side bar. It also works with Skype and Internet Explorer, and it can be used to show your Friends List as well. Judging by the comments under the Eurogamer article linked above, it’s received a mixed reception.


Many rightly ask why the hell you’d want to watch TV when you’re already playing a game. Some point out that slower games, like Sim City, might work with this, but others rightly point out that games like Sim City are hardly a mainstay of consoles. Yet more people argue that it would be useful to have a football match showing, meaning you could play the game during the boring bits but then transfer your attention when something interesting happens. To me, this says more about the nature of watching football than the relative merits of the Xbox One feature.

The Skype feature seems next to useless by comparison – who on earth is going to make a Skype call while playing a game? And who on earth would want to chat to someone while they’re mindlessly shooting aliens/bad guys/zombies? I already have images of long-suffering girlfriends shouting at their boyfriends to STOP PLAYING THAT BLOODY GAME while they’re attempting to hold a Skype conversation. I suppose it could be useful for gamers keeping in touch with each other while playing cooperatively online… but don’t we already have voice chat for that?

However, I can see the benefits of being able to bring up the internet while playing a game, particularly in terms of looking for tips or guides to a game when you get stuck. Then again, like most gamers, I already have a ‘second screen’ in the form of a smartphone and laptop, so I can’t see how splitting the screen on the TV rather than searching the internet on my phone would be an improvement.

To be honest, I’m a bit baffled by Snap – it seems like a feature for having the sake of a feature, and I’ve the feeling that most users will probably try it once and then never use it again. But maybe I’m wrong – maybe screen multitasking is the future, and I’m just too blind to see it?

I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the whole thing – would you use Snap? If so, what for?